Through various avenues, the IAEA is supporting national and global efforts related to spent fuel management at research and test reactors. Besides compiling and maintaining databases on research reactors and their associated spent fuel management programmes, the Agency has actively supported the USA's programme called Reduced Enrichment at Research and Test Reactors (RERTR), which addresses nuclear non-proliferation goals.

It further has been involved, as an observer, in most meetings of the "ad hoc" group of research reactor operators, known as the Edlow Group, which successfully sought to return US-origin spent fuel from foreign research reactors. Towards this end, the IAEA Director General, in July 1993, wrote to the Secretary of the US Department of Energy and, in February 1995, to the Minister of Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation, suggesting that these major partners in RERTR could facilitate the non-proliferation goal of RERTR by taking back foreign research reactor fuel. To aid the US take-back programme, especially for developing Member States, the Agency has organized activities to help its Member States prepare their spent fuel for shipment back to its country of origin. Major activities have included a training course held at Argonne National Laboratory, USA, from 13-24 January 1997 and the preparation of draft technical guidance, Guidelines Document on Technical and Administrative Preparations Required for Shipment of Research Reactor Spent Fuel to its Country of Origin.

Other recent activities have involved national and international experts in the preparation of a Safety Guide, Design, Operation and Safety Analysis Report for Spent Fuel Storage Facilities at Research Reactors, which has been submitted for publication. During 1997 the IAEA further convened a Technical Committee Meeting to collect and evaluate information on procedures and techniques for the management of failed fuels from research reactors and an Advisory Group Meeting on the Management and Storage of Experimental and Exotic Spent Fuels from Research and Test Reactors. Also, the Agency offers advice through IFMAP, the Irradiated Fuel Management Advisory Programme, to operators of spent fuel storage facilities and more tangible assistance to developing Member States through the IAEAís Technical Assistance and Co-operation programmes.

Recognizing that the degradation of materials, equipment, and facilities through ageing is becoming of more concern to many operators, the Agency has organized several activities in the materials' science field. Prominent among these was the preparation of a document on the durability of nuclear fuels and components in wet storage, which is being published by the Agency. This document contains information on aluminium clad fuels used in research reactors developed as part of a Coordinated Research Project (CRP) on Irradiation Enhanced Degradation of Materials in Spent Fuel Storage Facilities. Another CRP is devoted specifically to research reactor fuel cladding and focuses on the monitoring and control of corrosion in wet storage. These programmes are supplemented by a series of regional workshops that have been organized to deal with all aspects of spent fuel handling, management, storage and preparation for shipment.

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